Director: Yolanda Ramke, Ben Howling
Cast: Martin Freeman, Simone Landers, Susie Porter
Plot: Andy (Freeman) is bitten by a zombie in the Australian outback and has 48 hours to find a new home for his baby daughter.
Cargo does a lot of things right. For one, this is a zombie movie that has found a strong enough theme to attach itself too. Rather than fall back on the usual tropes, writer and director Yolanda Ramke has crafted her tale of humans surviving the apocalypse in the Australian outback. It adds a neat flavour to the proceedings. For one, foraging for supplies is tricky enough without the zombies lumbering around. As the characters are on their last legs, starving, you feel that the miles of barren wastelands around them don’t really hold out too much hope. It also introduces the culture clashes between white folk and the Aboriginal tribes. Each culture has their own way of handling the zombies. Sadly, as the film progresses, the white folk, or Gubbas as Martin Freeman gets referred to, the usual desperate human issues start emerging. Men use the turmoil of the end of the world for their own gain. Allies become hazards in a heartbeat. It is fascinating watching the variations of the genre in another continent. The thrilling set-up is a strong one too. Father Andy Rose, Martin Freeman, is ferrying his wife and baby daughter through the Australian apocalypse, trying to get them to safety. However, the clock really begins ticking, when his wife is killed and Andy gets a bite. With 48 hours of his life remaining, Andy has one goal: find a family that can look after his daughter for him. It is an impossible task and there are some cracking moments in this film where the tension really gets your blood pumping. Martin Freeman is the perfect casting choice for this part. He has a way of taking something as commercial as a zombie film and dragging it down into a human drama. This is not a film about zombies, but a film about a father’s love for his daughter. Freeman is in his element here, relishing the chance to take a part, mainly reserved for the brooding hero (Andrew Lincoln, Woody Harrelson), and bringing a softer, everyday man element to it.
However, Cargo eventually runs out of steam. The sad thing is that this isn’t the movie’s fault. It has an interesting story with an interesting group of characters, so it slows down to examine everything in detail. But this is a zombie movie, when all it said and done, and we have all seen it before. The issue with the slower zombie movies is that they need to be creative and original to make it work. If a faster, stupider zombie movie hits the same old notes, at the very least, it has the draw of some bloody kills to keep everyone entertained. Cargo is clearly a low budget production, keeping its zombie effects impressive but brief. The draw Cargo is banking on is a thought-provoking emotional tale, but we’ve seen it all before. Andy crosses paths with a troubled family unit, a settlement with a dark secret… none of this is new. The fresh face of Martin Freeman gets you fairly far, but by the end, you lose touch with the emotion. The ending is satisfyingly tragic and heart-warming, at the same time, but most of the audience would have been shaken off by the cumbersome build-up.
Final Verdict: A well-written, emotional zombie tale, but in a genre so bloated, Cargo needed to be more.